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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Local man witnessed Tibetan violence

April 8, 2008

By Shir Haberman
Portsmouth Herald News, NH
April 07, 2008

KITTERY, Maine — Former town Councilor Matt Brock describes himself as a
"cultural traveler." As such, he has visited a number of places in the
world where things are much different from how they are here in his
hometown of Kittery.

However, he recently became a spectator to history. He arrived in Lhasa,
the capital of Tibet, on March 10, the first day that Buddhist monks
began demonstrating against the Chinese government for religious and
political freedoms.

"From the roof of the Jokhang, Tibet's most sacred temple, we looked
down to a broad square with hundreds of people moving about," Brock
wrote in a recently published letter to the editor. "Several people in
the Square began calling out. Our guide said the message from the monks
was 'Free Tibet.'

"Soon, several dozen police converged on the monks. The monks were
arrested; at least one may have been beaten," he wrote.

The protests on that Monday, first reported by the Tibetan-language
service of Radio Free Asia, marked the 49th anniversary of the uprising
in 1959, which led the Dalai Lama to flee into exile, where he has
remained ever since.

Brock was in Lhasa as the conflict escalated through the week. Dressed
in riot gear, members of the Chinese Army blockaded major monasteries.

"We left Lhasa on March 13, the day before widespread rioting was
reported in the city," Brock wrote. "By the time we left Tibet on March
15, China acknowledged that a number of people had been killed, although
it claimed that the Tibetans had initiated and provoked the violence."

That, however, was not what Brock said he observed earlier in the week.
Instead, what he saw was the Chinese government using force to deny the
people of Tibet their civil right to peaceful assembly and the ability
to openly express their religious and political views.

What concerns Brock, now that he has seen the situation up close and
personal, is what will be the U.S. government's response to this
situation. He is so concerned that he has written to Maine's two U.S.
senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, as well as the state's 1st
District Congressman Tom Allen, who has indicated he will run against
Collins for U.S. Senate this year.

So far, Brock said he has not received any response from the two
senators and only a confirmation of his inquiry from Allen. Kevin
Kelley, Collin's press secretary, confirmed receipt of Brock's letter
and said a reply has gone out to him.

"Mr. Brock's first-hand account of the violence that erupted in Lhasa
last month is simply astounding," Collins said Friday. "I appreciate
hearing from him.

"The developments in and around Tibet are very troubling," the senator
said. "China's occupation of Tibet has marginalized a Tibetan national
identity that dates back more than 1,600 years, and its efforts to limit
the succession of Tibetan spiritual leaders and to suppress the Tibetan
language and culture are a fundamental violation of freedom of religion
and belief."

Collins said that during her time in the Senate, she has consistently
voiced her opposition to the Chinese government's record on democracy
and human rights and will continue to urge the Chinese government to
take all necessary steps to bring about a peaceful resolution to the
current crisis in Tibet.

Snowe, in an April 2 letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, signed by 27
other Republican and Democratic senators, called for a timely, peaceful
resolution to the current crisis in Tibet and respect for the human
rights of the Tibetan people.

"The violent crackdown perpetrated against the Tibetan people last month
has already shattered the illusion that China's economic development,
without political liberalization, is synonymous with modernization,"
Snowe said, following the release of the letter. "It is in all of
humanity's interest to now ensure that, when the world turns its gaze to
this summer's games in Beijing, the Olympic flame is not obscured by a
curtain of smoke rising from Tibet."

However, for Brock, it is not just about ending the violence in time for
the Olympics, which will be held in Beijing this year. The current
situation brings up the much bigger question of America's response to
the kind of human rights violations that have consistently taken place
under the Communist regime, he said.

"If human rights is to have any meaning in United States policy for
Tibet, the U.S. must respond promptly and directly to these violations,"
Brock said. "A good place to start is for the U.S. to join with other
nations to demand an accounting of Tibetans that have been the subject
of violence in recent days and the release of imprisoned monks."

The Kittery Point resident said other actions could include conditions
on trade negotiations with China or greater recognition for Tibet's
government in exile in India.

"But the current easy, empty policy by the United States of expressing
concern for Tibet, while conducting business as usual with China, must
change," Brock said.
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